Riverine anthropogenic litter load to the Mediterranean Sea near the metropolitan area of Barcelona, Spain

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Apr 20;714:136807. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136807. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


Every year >4 million tonnes of plastic are estimated to enter the oceans and much of it comes from land-based sources through rivers and estuaries. To fill the lack of information related to plastic inputs from rivers, a harmonized approach based on visual observations for monitoring floating macro litter was followed in this work. We provide the results of one-year monitoring (October 2016-September 2017) in the Llobregat and El Besòs rivers, which are flowing through an industrialized and populated area nearby the city of Barcelona (Catalonia, NE Spain). Floating litter items categories were influenced by urban centres located along the rivers. Overall, similar litter composition was observed in both rivers with a prevalence of plastics, mainly related to the food and beverage sectors. Seasonal variability showed significant correlations with natural factors such as wind and rainfall. Approximately 0.4-0.6 tonnes of plastic per year were estimated to be loaded into the sea by these two Catalan rivers. This study contributes to enlarge our knowledge on anthropogenic riverine litter entering the NW Mediterranean Sea, providing a starting point for the development of further mitigation strategies.

Keywords: Floating litter; Macro litter; Monitoring; Plastic pollution; Riverine litter.